Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day Five: Hill City, SD

What an adventure we had on the road today!  Did you know that the stretch of I-90 between Sioux Falls and Rapid City is riddled full of strange attractions?  The theme of the day was definitely "we're too cheap to actually pay for this," but I did occasionally convince Colin that we should pull off the freeway to see something ridiculous.  Here were some of our favorites:

How creepy is this?  If you watched Hoarders this week, then you'll understand why our first reaction was, "this is a crazy lady mecca!"

My absolute favorite stop on the trip!  This is not only the largest, but also the only corn palace in the world!  For miles and miles we saw different billboards for this 8th wonder of the world, and the whole time we said, "it can't actually be built of corn!"  And guess is!!!  They spend $130,000 each year to rebuild the exterior and change out the corn pictures.  I would highly recommend clicking on this picture to get the closer look.  This was the first stop on the "we're to cheap to actually pay for this" tour of South Dakota.

Attached to the Corn Palace was Mitchell, SD's city hall, of course.  While the palace is rebuilt at a ridiculous cost each year, the city hall appears to be made out of particle board.  If nothing else, these Dakotans sure do have their priorities in line. 

This is Cornelius, the Corn Palace mascot.  Not only does he have his own security detail (originally installed to protect president Obama on his visit in 2008), he has two faces, one on each side so that you can be taking picture, while another crazy family takes one on the other side. 

Aside from these awesome stops, we also made our way to the Petrified Forest and Wall Drugs, neither of which we actually went into/payed for.  Now for the more traditional tourist destinations:

After getting through plains and the badlands, we entered the Black Hills.  To say this area is surprisingly beautiful would be an understatement.  This is one of the tunnels carved out of a hill. 

The next stop along the "we're too cheap to actually pay for this" tour was Mt. Rushmore.  Sure, it's only $11, but when you can get such a good picture from the side of the road, why waste the cash and the time it takes to fight the crowds?  All in all, I'd say it was a little anticlimactic.  Did you know it was built by a Ku-Klux-Klan member? Yeah me either.

The Washington profile from another viewing area in the national forest.

This is my favorite picture from our Mt. Rushmore adventure...

And this is Colin's, because Washington is picture crashing right in between us :)

Colin in his natural element.

Even though you can't see it in this picture, all of those rocks around me were super sparkly.  Therefore, I deemed this my princess hill.

Our third stop on the WTCTAPFT tour was the crazy horse monument.  We actually had to drive into the park, tell them we weren't going to pay $20, and then drive in far enough while we were "turning around" to see the monument and get a picture.  This one was even more anticlimactic than Mt. Rushmore, but once if it's finished it's gonna be awesome.

Aside from the sites, this has without a doubt been our favorite destination so far, simply because of the hotel.  We've learned a great lesson at this Best Western Plus - there's a huge difference between a nice family hotel where people vacation, and a "staycation" hotel where people actually live.  Last night we stayed at a Super 8 in Sioux Falls that shared a parking lot with one of the sketchiest apartments we've ever seen.  Here, we are totally isolated in a nice little nook of the black hills, so the hotel is really more like a little mini resort, and worth every penny.  The saddest part is, it's only about $15 more than the Super 8 was. 

Besides all of the other awesome accommodations this hotel has (including a Seattle's Best coffee shop in the lobby!), it has a restaurant where Colin was able to get his first frosty mug beer in over 4 months.  That's a look of pure joy you see there.

The final thing that happened today will go down in history as the night Colin predicted the Apocalypse.  If you take a look up there at that happy beer picture, you'll see that it's bright and sunny out.  Now take a little peek at the photo below - they were taken about 10 minutes apart, and this wasn't even as dark as it got. Colin noticed that the clouds were moving in opposite directions (which is totally weird), and started talking about the end of the world.  Then, the rain, wind, and giant hail started.  This was all followed by severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.  What an end to an exciting day!  Things have calmed down now, but we're in a watch zone until midnight.  Hopefully the worst has has already passed, but who knows. 

Tomorrow is our longest driving day at a whopping 8 hours (which between bathroom and gas station stops will probably be more like 9.5).  We'll be stopping in Bozeman, MT, but don't really have anything planned while we're there.  Hopefully we find something billboard worthy along the way! :)

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